Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's assign each neighborhood a grocery store. One grocery store.

Don Boudreaux has produced another great parable:

Suppose that we were supplied with groceries in same way that we are supplied with K-12 education.

Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. A huge chunk of these tax receipts would then be spent by government officials on building and operating supermarkets. County residents, depending upon their specific residential addresses, would be assigned to a particular supermarket. Each family could then get its weekly allotment of groceries for “free.” (Department of Supermarket officials would no doubt be charged with the responsibility for determining the proper amounts and kinds of groceries that families of different kinds and sizes are entitled to receive.)

Except in rare circumstances, no family would be allowed to patronize a “public” supermarket outside of its district.

Residents of wealthier counties – such as Fairfax County, VA and Somerset County, NJ – would obviously have better-stocked and more attractive supermarkets than would residents of poorer counties. And, thanks to a long-ago U.S. Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer; such private-supermarket families, though, would get no discount on their property-tax bills.

When the quality of supermarkets is recognized by nearly everyone to be dismal, calls for “supermarket choice” would be rejected by a coalition of greedy government-supermarket workers and ideologically benighted collectivists as attempts to cheat supermarket customers from out of good supermarket service – indeed, as attempts to deny ordinary families the food that they need for their very survival. Such ‘choice,’ it would be alleged, will drain precious resources from the public supermarkets whose (admittedly) poor performance testifies to the fact that these supermarkets are underfunded.

And the small handful of people who call for total separation between supermarket and state would be criticized by nearly everyone as being, at best, delusional and – it would be thought more realistically – more likely misanthropic devils who are indifferent to the malnutrion and starvation that would sweep the land if only private market forces governed the provision and patronizing of supermarket. (Some indignant observers would even wonder aloud at the insensitivity of referring to grocery shoppers as “customers”; surely the relationship between suppliers of life-giving foods and the people who need these foods is not so crass as to be properly discussed as being ‘commercial.’)


Does anyone believe that such a system for supplying groceries would work well, or even one-tenth as well as the current private, competitive system that we currently rely upon for supplying grocery-retailing services? To those of you who might think so, pardon me but you’re nuts.

To those of you who understand that such a system for supplying grocery-retailing services would be a catastrophe, why might you continue to count yourself in the ranks of those who believe that government schooling (especially the way it is currently funded and supplied) is the system that we should continue to use?

I apologize for scraping the entire post.  Save a link to the Cafe Hayek website.  Worth reading daily.  Hourly.  Or more. 


Anonymous said...

I made that very same analogy in one of my early posts. His version is better.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Howdy ! Hope you are liking California. I hear you might be moving further south ????

Anonymous said...

California's fine, though I haven't really seen much of it. It feels like I've been spending all my time in Brazil (like this week, for example). I'm not planning on moving again anytime soon, but it never hurts to have a back-up plan just in case.

JT said...

I like the grocery store analogy, but think it more thought provoking to suggest that everyone be assigned to one church, where they could vote on the leadership every two or three years and then otherwise had to just suck it up and make mandatory tithe(tax) payments. And don't cry about freedom of religion, because, after all, they are free to worship however they want, within the confines of that one church.

People might get more fired up about God than groceries. Or not.

That Damn Libertarian said...

I read through DB's post thinking "Those star bellied sneetches live by Central Market and I'm 3 minutes walk from Malone's. Damn.